Royal Navy (RN) Type 23 Frigate, HMS St Albans recently spent two days working in direct support of Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) in the Gulf.

HMS St Albans joined ships from Saudi Arabia to conduct joint Maritime Operations for CMF’s Combined Task Force 152 and exchange crucial information about operations in the Central Arabian Gulf. The Kuwaiti-led CTF152, headquartered in Bahrain, is in charge of Maritime Security in the Gulf for the 31 member nations of CMF.

HMS St Albans alongside HMS Al Jawf
HMS St Albans and HMS Al Jawf working together on Maritime Security Operations in the Gulf

During the time that she spent working in support of CTF152, ‘The Saint’, as the ship is affectionately known, and her Merlin Mk2 picked up members of the Task Force and an interpreter before sailing out to join coalition partners in CTF152’s operating area.

HMS St Albans met up with Royal Saudi Naval Force ship HMS Al Jawf. The two Ships conducted communications checks and exchanged valuable information on Maritime Security Operations in the area, building stronger ties between the two coalition ships and nations. This increased understanding means that the ships can operate more effectively together to ensure the freedom of navigation within the Gulf, one of the most important areas of sea in the world.

CTF152 officers, Lieutenant Commander Eric Gomez of the US Navy and Lieutenant Ibrahim Alhuthaily of the Royal Saudi Naval Force, sailed with HMS St Albans for the period to offer local knowledge and expertise.

Lt Ibrahim Alhuthaily of the RSNF on the Bridge of HMS St Albans
Lt Ibrahim Alhuthaily of the Royal Saudi Naval Force on the Bridge of HMS St Albans

Without its own dedicated ships, CTF152 relies on CMF partners providing ships to support its effort in the Joint Operating Area. The Task Force is truly ‘combined’ with officers from Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the United States working together to increase maritime security in the Gulf. Lieutenant Jon Maumy RN, lead planner for the Task Force who used to be one of HMS St Albans’ helicopter pilots, said: “Having such a capable ship working directly for the Task Force was fantastic and it was exciting to see what she would be able to achieve for us.”

As well as providing a visible presence and deterring any potential terrorist threats in the Gulf, HMS St Albans’ sea boat conducted multiple visits to dhows in the area to provide any assistance they required. Lt Ibrahim Alhuthaily said: “Visiting fishing dhows, reassuring them of the Coalition’s presence and assisting them when our ships can help maintain a long standing relationship of trust between mariners in such a busy stretch of water.”

Lieutenant Commander Eric Gomez added: “HMS St Albans welcomed us from the moment we stepped on board the Merlin Mk2 helicopter. Aboard the Ship, the Captain and crew were no different, and the professionalism and focus of the crew was clear to see from the outset. We conducted 15 Approach and Assists (AAs) in two days before the sea state worsened. We sailed alongside HMS Al Jawf for about 30 minutes during the ship manoeuvres with crystal clear communications. This was the first time HMS St Albans was in direct support to CTF152 since deploying and, despite the declining weather on the second day; I would consider it a great success.”